GUILLEM BALAGUE: Woman footballers today owe a debt to those who paved the way

In his latest Chronicle column, the Biggleswade United chairman reflects on the success of the current ladies team and those who blazed the trail for them

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 1:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 1:52 pm
Heather Rennie (back row, second from left) and Tracey James (front row, far right) were part of the successful Biggleswade United women’s team in the 1980s and are now doing their bit to help the current ladies teams at the club as fixtures secretary and club secretary respectively

The news that our ladies team have been awarded promotion into Division One of the Eastern Region Women’s Football League signals the launching of a new era for our female section at Biggleswade United

We will now play in Step Six of the ladies footballing pyramid – two steps higher than where we currently play – just three seasons after we first began this project to try to establish Biggleswade United as the strongest ladies football set up in the community.

Playing at a higher level will require our players to raise their levels of training and commitment as well as be prepared to travel longer distances to and from away matches.

Family and other commitments means this will not suit everyone which is why next season we will also be maintaining a presence in Division One of the Herts and Beds Women’s League for those that feel more comfortable – either from a playing or logistical point of view, or both – at Level Eight.

Trials to bring in new players began on Wednesday this week at Henlow Public Pavilion with further trials to be held on on June 23 and June 30 between 6.30pm and 8.30pm before the start of pre-season training in July. If you think you fit the bill then we would love to see you there.

Women’s football is by a country mile the fastest growing sport in the world today and here at Biggleswade United we want to establish ourselves as one of the major players in this region not least because we have a distinguished history in the women’s game.

Club secretary, Tracey James and fixtures secretary, Heather Rennie were both members of the Biggleswade United ladies team that back in the 1980s were one of the best ladies sides in the country.

Regular winners of the midlands league they used to play in, their moments of glory came back in the 1985-86 season and in their last season in 1988-89 making it both times to the quarter-finals of the Women’s FA Cup.

In 1986 they lost 3-1 to Doncaster Belles, at the time the Manchester City or Chelsea ladies of their day, unquestionably the top ladies side in the country and then in 1989 went out at the same stage to Nottingham Rangers 2-1.

People like to say that back then it was a different game.

It wasn’t of course, in fact it was – still is – the same game, it’s just that the attitude of everyone involved in it be they players, administrators and supporters has moved slowly, but inexorably, forward.

Today they are, thankfully, no longer regarded as a quaint novelty, teams that would on occasions be used as a truncated diversion played out before the main event of a men’s match, but rather as a serious, fiercely competitive sports people who give of their very best and are in turn, quite rightly, accorded the respect and approbation that they deserve.

The woman footballers of today owe a huge debt of gratitude to those pioneers like Tracey and Heather that helped to blaze a trail and we are privileged to be able to have them as part of our family.

The growth and continued success of our ladies section is the best and most fitting tribute we can make to women like Tracey, Heather and all their teamates who we will be, very soon, looking to re-unite for a club event once we have successfully managed to boot this virus into the dustbin of history.

Watch this space...